By TONY EIERDAM
Entering the “second season” the Mineral Wells Rams will face the Iowa Park Hawks to open the Class 3A, Region I playoffs.
All games in the best-of-three series will be played at the Decatur High School baseball field, which is not located at the new Decatur High School. The baseball field is located at the old high school, now the middle school, just west of Highway 287 and south of Highway 380.
Game one will be at 7 p.m. today, with game two at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Game three, if necessary, will follow game two.
Rams head coach Bret Barrick said earlier in the week he will start the series with new No. 2 starting pitcher Aaron Wheeler, who has had good success in recent outings, and on Saturday will start game two with all-state lefty Matt “Moose” Tincher.
Barrick has several options for a third starting pitcher, and he hopes to use Tincher in relief in either game one or three, if a third game is necessary.
“Pitching has been a strength for us this year, and we have plenty of kids who have started at least one game,” Barrick said. “We aren’t worried if we go to a third game.”
Barrick feels Iowa Park will start its No. 1 pitcher to begin the series.
“Jared Biddy is their No. 1 pitcher, and he will be low 80s with his fast ball and he throws a nice curve ball, and he throws both for strikes,” Barrick said. “Their No. 2 is Jace Langen, and he will be in the upper 70s with his fast ball and his curve ball will be lower 70s. He can throw both pitches for strikes.”
Barrick said the Hawks are a good hitting team despite not having much home run power.
“They put the ball in play,” he said. “They put pressure on the defense to make plays.
“They are not a ‘small ball’ team, they are a team that makes contact up and down the batting order.
“We are kind of like that ourselves.”
Barrick pointed out that the Hawks are solid defensively, with no real weaknesses in the infield or outfield.
“They have a solid infield and a good outfield,” Barrick said. “Like all high school teams they do make mistakes, but overall they are pretty good and limit their errors to a minimum.”
Barrick feels starting pitching will be the main tangible in the series. The coach had success last year by waiting until the second game of a series to throw his big lefty. In 2012, the Rams made it to the fourth round of the playoffs.
“If our pitching is on it will be a good weekend for us,” he said. “Throwing Matt second worked for us last year.
“If we can get through their No. 1 – assuming they will throw their No. 1 (today) – Matt can come in and close it out and start game two.
“If we go to a game three, if we didn’t need Matt to close on Friday, we might can use him in relief in game three after he pitches game two, depending on how many pitches he threw in his start.
“That’s what we are looking at. You would like to not have to do that because you don’t want to overwork a kid. But we will keep an eye on his pitch count and communicate with him on how he feels.”
Barrick said he likes where the team is at overall as they head into the playoffs.
“This team plays hard, and I like that,” he said. “We are getting better defensively. We have a tendency to make a mistake here and there, so I would like to see us more consistent defensively.
“We normally hit the ball hard, but lately we have been popping up more than I would like us to. We need to be more consistent at the plate.
“We are making good contact, we are just not driving the baseball like I know we can. I want the kids to concentrate on driving the baseball in this series.
“Again, pitching has been our strength all year long, but we need the other parts of our overall game to compliment our pitching.”
MWHS to face Iowa Park in best-of-three bi-district series at Decatur; opener today at 7 p.m. with series continuing on Saturday
By TONY EIERDAM
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